Head coach Aitor Karanka says Middlesbrough's fellow Championship promotion rivals are using his in-form side as a "reference".
Boro are contenders to reach the Premier League on the back of an eight-game unbeaten run which was extended by Saturday's 2-0 win against Derby.
They are second behind Bournemouth on goals scored as both have equal points and goal difference records.
"The rest of the teams respect us more each day," Karanka told BBC Tees.
"We can feel it is not a coincidence when Middlesbrough is winning most of their games.
"Other teams have Middlesbrough as a reference; it's good because they respect us but bad because they concentrate more when we play."